It’s one of those towns that can attach the old cliché that nothing ever happens here when it suits, and in times like this, when something weird happens, it tends to fit. Everything, it seems we’re trying to say, tends to happen somewhere else. And since there’s an awful lot more of elsewhere than there is here then it works out as pretty near the truth. And it also means that the same statement is true of all towns. At least since the last thing.
The thing about all this that has some sort of irony to it is that in this town where nothing ever happens, the interesting thing that’s happening now is that even less is happening. And that’s quite a thing.
You know on those days when the snow hits and shuts things down for a while and some of us celebrate inside because something as soft as a snowflake has ground the machine to a halt? You know the days I mean? It’s a bit like that here. The main road runs out the back of the house and provides a permanent rumble of background noise in normal times. There’s a tunnel up the road a bit where the cows got to the other side when this was dairy pasture and often we have to use that to get to the fields on the other side. But not now. The roads are quiet and the hum has gone and there is no longer that palpable urgency to get to that somewhere and do that thing that was so important.
It is beautiful but it’s also somewhat unnerving because the lonesome walker on the country lane was before merely a part of the scenery that flashed by the car window on the way to somewhere else. I feel a lot more conspicuous now and though I’ve been out there walking for times beyond count, I feel somehow like I’m doing something wrong. That my actions might bring down the nation. In some counties the police have sent up drones to popular beauty spots to shame those out walking. To tell the rest of us that it’s unnecessary. I wanted to be stopped by a police patrol on my walk.
Police officer: Why are you out here?
Me: I’m getting fresh air and exercise like I always do.
P O: you’re meant to be socially distancing.
Me: I was before you came along.
P O: There’s no need to be funny about it.
Me: That’s not my intention. Sorry.
P O: You’re meant to stay close your home.
Me: How close?
P O: Well, close enough that you’re not too far away.
Me: Ok. Well I wanted to but there were quite a few people in the actual town so I thought being out here might be more helpful…
I’m not getting it, this approach by the police. Surely they need the public to be onside. It will take an actual law to stop me getting the 6am walk under my belt before the rest of the house is up. I saw a deer up there yesterday morning. It sprung from the field and dropped down into the road, looked at me briefly then sauntered on to the other side. It was a big one, too – not one of those muntjacs but a proper deer. To think that such a thing could live wild fifty metres from my back door fills me with some kind of magic…
I wonder if these creatures that usually live in the fringes of the worlds we create have sensed that something is different and are stepping out more boldy. I know I would be with them if I wasn’t so damned human.
Instead I endure the new restrictions to the human life that I had long suspected of being somewhat restricted anyway. Keep away from each other, they say. And they mark out lines on the floor of the supermarkets in case we’re not sure what they mean. Walking down the road, innocent as anything and the old lady dives into the bushes holding her hand over her mouth and trembling as you pass. We have always hated each other and now we have the chance to show it.
As far as I’m concerned we can keep this social distancing thing as long as they like. I never was a big fan of the social.